A new web app has launched that alerts Australians to COVID exposure sites in their neighbourhood using real-time information, outpacing the “useless” government-funded COVIDSafe mobile app.
Developed by researchers at the Australian National University and the University of Queensland, the CRISPER web app uses publicly available postcode data to create a national database of cases, deaths, testing and contact tracing alert locations.
The web app was launched on Thursday for desktop and smartphones.
Project lead ANU Professor Colleen Lau said the technology provided accurate and “spatially explicit” real-time coronavirus updates.
“It is nice and visual and on a map compared to just getting a list of locations so it is much easier for people,” Professor Lau said.
“You can zoom in to where you live or work and see if there are any [exposure site] locations near you.”
Battle of the apps
CRISPER was not funded, created or endorsed by any government but it uses data from health departments across Australia on health advice and exposure sites, dates and times.
It’s in direct contrast to the COVIDSafe app rolled out by the federal government. It has hardly been downloaded and barely been used in the fight against the coronavirus.
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist at UNSW and adviser to the World Health Organisation, has slammed the federal government’s COVIDSafe app as “very useless” against the Delta variant of COVID.
That’s because the app, which costs more than $75,000 to run every month, only detects contact information from users who have been within 1.5 metres of each other for a period of 15 minutes or more.
This is despite the Delta variant, which has been in Australia since May and is the dominant strain worldwide, being transmitted by “fleeting exposure”.
“You just have to walk past someone,” Professor McLaws told the ABC.
Health officials in various states have repeatedly described transmission of the Delta strain between strangers in “scarily fleeting” encounters.
Prevention, not tracking
Professor Lau said CRISPER updates about every hour and was more “user friendly” than scrolling through exposure sites for each suburb, state and territory.
Although it was designed for the public, the app will also benefit health professionals, she said.
“GPs are very busy so [with the app] they can see what is happening around their clinic and know if they have a patient coming in with symptoms whether there is an exposure site nearby,” she said.
CRISPER also provided a national summaries dashboard, an interactive mapping tool for NSW, and users could set up automatic alerts for certain locations.